First quarantine-breaker charged as police seek to keep Israelis at home
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First quarantine-breaker charged as police seek to keep Israelis at home

Suspect accused of going out on 3 occasions in as many days; over 80 others under investigation; 12 probed for spreading fake news about pandemic

An Israeli wearing a face mask walks in the city center of Jerusalem on March 17, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
An Israeli wearing a face mask walks in the city center of Jerusalem on March 17, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Israel Police on Wednesday said it was filing charges against a person for breaking a quarantine, marking the first time such an indictment has been filed since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The suspect is accused of going out on at least three occasions in less than three days, despite being ordered to remain in isolation. Police are seeking to have the person remain behind bars with no bail until the end of court proceedings in the case.

According to a police spokesperson, 86 cases have been opened against suspected quarantine breakers and 12 people are being probed for spreading false information about the coronavirus pandemic.

Israel has issued harsh restrictions on public gatherings, telling people on Tuesday not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary. The announcement was part of the latest wave of sweeping and dramatic restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, bringing the country a step closer to a full lockdown.

The public was instructed not to go out to parks, playgrounds, the beach, pools, libraries, museums or other public places, the Health Ministry said. Exceptions could be made for taking out children and pets — in accordance with instructions for maintaining hygiene and limiting social contact.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference about the coronavirus, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on March 11, 2020. (Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday reprimanded Israelis for failing to grasp the gravity of the growing coronavirus crisis, urging them to stay home wherever possible, as top health officials said thousands could die of the disease if the public did not strictly adhere to government guidelines.

“This isn’t child’s play, it’s not summer vacation, it’s a matter of life and death,” Netanyahu said at an evening press conference after media outlets reported extensively over the past two days on Israelis making use of their newfound free time to enjoy the beach and public parks.

On Tuesday, police said that some 150 ultra-Orthodox Jews defied Health Ministry coronavirus orders against public gatherings and attended a wedding in the city of Beit Shemesh near Jerusalem.

Officers arrested four of the participants: the father of the groom, an American citizen, who arrived in Israel from the United States and was supposed to have been in quarantine; the father of the bride; the caterer; and a resident of Jerusalem who reportedly organized the wedding.

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